MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - "Anyone who owns these vehicles needs to immediately bring them in and get them fixed so you can protect your family and everyone else who drives around in the vehicle with you," warns David Freidman with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The warning is for drivers of nearly 8 million U.S. vehicles that may have defective airbags. The situation could be extremely serious, especially for drivers in South Carolina.
"If the airbag deploys in one of these defective vehicles, it's like receiving shrapnel to the face and neck," explains Gary Freeman with C&G Auto in Myrtle Beach. "Shrapnel would be pieces of metal from the canister that has exploded. And if the airbag didn't hurt you, the shrapnel could actually kill you."
The airbags recalled are manufactured by Japanese parts maker, Takata. Nine major car retailers are affected, and almost 8 million vehicles are being recalled.
In some vehicles, both the driver's and passenger's front airbag inflator could release excessive pressure if deployed. The increased pressure could cause the inflator to rupture, and if that happens, metal fragments (shrapnel) could pass through the airbag.
In one case reported, police are investigating a death where a woman was driving a recalled car. She suffered stab-like wounds in her neck that were apparently caused by the exploding airbag.
"If I had a car, or if I knew of a family member that had one of these cars, I would not drive it unless it was an emergency, until I got it into the dealer," Freeman says.
In a letter to vehicle owners affected by the recall, Honda says people who live in places known for high humidity, naming South Carolina specifically, are especially at risk.
"The humidity has some effect on the metal deterioration," says Freeman. "That's the problem. If you can imagine a piece of metal that might rust because of the exposure to the humidity, compounds the issue. That's the reason South Carolinians have a bigger problem than people that live in the Midwest."
If you're already aware your vehicle is recalled, the advice Freeman gives is don't drive it - unless it's right to the dealer.
It's easy to find out if your vehicle has been recalled. Just check on the drivers' side door-jam and take down the 17-digit Vehicle Identification Number - or VIN.
Then, go here: http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Owners/vin-lookup-sites and select your car manufacturer. You'll be directed to a screen where your VIN is entered.
You should contact your dealer right away, if you think you're driving one of the affected vehicles - they should be able to tell you what steps to take next.